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Originally published in Progressive Health,
 June 2000

The Search for Efficient Posture
By Elizabeth Glaze

Posture is the first thing you notice about a stranger on the street, and posture is the first thing you notice about a person you're considering dating. Posture is the first thing an employer notices about a prospective employee!

So why is efficiently good posture so hard to find? It is rarely part of any school curriculum, is rarely seen in fashion magazines, is completely sabotaged by most car manufacturers, is not understood by the majority of people in the medical and fitness industry and is exaggeratedly distorted by every branch of the military.

To complicate matters, not everyone realizes they have inefficient posture. Years ago, as a Personal Trainer, I taught a former nurse in her home. On the phone, she explained that four years earlier she'd tripped on some steps and landed sideways on her jaw. She'd been to Orthopedic Surgeons, Physical Therapists, Chiropractors, Massage Therapists and a TMJ Orthodontist. A Body Worker had helped her the most. She slept with a customized dental mouth-plate. An Occupational Therapist had rearranged her home. She'd changed pillows, chairs, and had her kitchen moved around so she'd rarely have to reach upward. Despite all this, she still had constant neck pain and couldn't bend forward without feeling dizzy. This was what prevented her from joining group exercise lessons.

Five minutes into our first session, I asked, "Linda, has anyone ever told you that you have an extreme military posture?" She replied, "No, everyone compliments me on my posture," and described how her father trained her to stand "straight" as a child by asking her to stand against a wall with her shoulders and head pulled back to meet the wall. I explained that her accident had created weak areas, and her customary posture put enormous stress on them.

We began altering her alignment by using Ideokinesis imagery. We also stretched and strengthened various muscle groups. But even I was surprised when, after two weeks, I arrived at her door and she cautiously announced, "My pain is gone!" Before long her dizziness also went away. After two months, she joined a health club and didn't need private lessons any longer. Motivation was never her problem and her physical problems were under control.

The lesson to be learned from this is: "What seems straight to you, may not really be straight at all!" For example, people with rounded, slumped shoulders frequently stand with their lower body thrust forward. It's a "Debutant Slouch" posture that models often use when they want to look vamp-like in a slinky dress. Unfortunately, this posture doesn't look nearly as sexy on a 50 year-old businessman with a slight paunch, stress in the shoulders and lower backache. Add a car seat that tilts him at a 45degree angle and matters deteriorate further. Add whiplash from a collision and you've got BIG problems! However, if you ask him to "Stand straight" he'll invariably pull his shoulders back and lift his chin way up. Since nothing else has changed, he's actually making things worse!

So what is the ideal posture? For starters, from a side view, efficient posture places the earlobe, shoulder joint, hip joint, knee joint and ankle joint directly in line with each other. This distributes the weight of the head, ribcage, and pelvis evenly throughout the body.

How do you achieve this? Well, the method I use is called "Ideokinesis." Over 70 years old, Ideokinesis was created by Dr. Lulu Sweigard. She perfected it while teaching at Julliard College. Her intention was to have it taught together with basic anatomy & kinesiology. This has always blended well with my instructional approach as a Personal Trainer.

Sweigard believed that in order to correct posture, which is entirely unconscious and automatic, you have to alter the neuromuscular movement patterns that cause the posture to begin with! This is done with carefully targeted mental imagery. By thinking of the imagery on a regular basis, you gradually replace old, unconscious movement patterns with new, improved ones. As a result, muscles start to voluntarily shorten or lengthen to pull bones into more efficient alignment. However, conscious efforts to improve posture will actually override this effect and backfire!

In my experience, results from Ideokinesis come faster when combined with strengthening and stretching exercises. Improvements also happen sooner if you're already skilled at mental imagery. But the single most important factor of all is MOTIVATION! Will it work for everyone? There are no guarantees. But if you have neck, shoulder or lower back pain, and you can make it a priority for a while, Ideokinesis may be exactly what you need.

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Originally published in Progressive Health,
January 2002

Healthy Aging and Exercise
By Elizabeth Glaze

As we grow older, we inevitably discover that we can't take our bodies for granted anymore. This is why a portion of my clientele has always consisted of older adults who have decided to try an exercise plan for the first time in their lives. Their motivation usually stems from new health concerns, or from noticing a decrease in their muscle strength, or from frustration with aches and pains that linger. These are some of the questions they often ask:

Q.     "How does exercise help fight arthritis?"

A.     Healthy joints are well "oiled" by a lubrication fluid called "Synovial Fluid." When you don't exercise the joint it receives less lubrication. (Think of the unexercised joint as an unused car motor with very little motor oil.) In the case of Bursitis, the lubrication crystallizes and can actually lock up ("freeze") the joint. Not doing any exercise at all and then suddenly doing a full weight lifting routine would be like revving your car motor full throttle with no oil in it. In the case of the car, you'd burn out the motor. In the case of the joints and muscles, you'd put yourself out of commission and risk injury. However, when exercise is added gradually and moderately, it increases circulation to muscles, tissues and joints. Increased circulation means that higher levels of nutrition reach those areas. By increasing the nutrition, you keep the joint lubricated and make it less vulnerable to overuse injuries, strain and arthritis.

Q.     How can I prevent "Dowager's Hump?"

A.     Keep your upper-back muscles strong so that they don't let gravity overwhelm them. Weak muscles allow the bones to slide into a curve that resembles a "hump." Also, make sure you angle the tilt of your car seat to be as straight as possible. Leaning the seat back encourages you to slouch the shoulders and push your neck forward.

Q.     Will exercise make my skin look younger?

A.     Yes, particularly if it's aerobic exercise. Why? Since exercise increases total circulation in the body, it also increases blood flow to the little capillaries throughout your skin. (That's why you get that nice pink flush in your cheeks). This increased blood flow provides increased nutrition to the tissue in your skin. According to the experts, the tissues in your skin respond by growing thicker. This increased thickness helps eliminate some of the finer wrinkles. It's also probably the main factor in what is generally referred to as, "That Healthy Glow."

Q.     "Am I too old to lift weights?"

A.     Not if my 92 year-old-client, with two hip replacements, can do it. She began seeing me twice a week at age 89. The most important thing to remember is to start with light weights and increase them very gradually.

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Originally published in Progressive Health,
September 2000

An Exercise Reality Check Part 1
By Elizabeth Glaze

This is the season when people start to feel an urge to take better care of themselves. Traditionally, they resolve to be more consistent with exercise. Some begin on January 1st, while others wait until "bathing suit season" is near. Either way, they typically start trying to lift weights in some way, shape, or form, and these are the questions they ask:

Q.     If I use free-weights or machine weights, how many times should I lift the weight ?

A.     The Ideal: Between 8 and 14 lifts. If you can't do at least 8 with good posture, the weight is too heavy. If you can easily do 14 or more, the weight is too light. If the last few lifts are challenging but not a strain, you are using the correct amount of weight.

The Reality: If you are recovering from an injury, or are weak, or are out of shape for any reason, you should start with more of a physical therapy approach. Start with light weights, do 10 to 20 repetitions and only do one set of each exercise. Your goal should be to gain muscle strength and stamina before anything else.

Q.     How many repeat sets of weight lifting exercises should I do?

A.     The Ideal: One set if you are just starting to get back into shape. After that, two sets works well for most people. Doing three sets or more is primarily for bodybuilding.

The Reality: I can't tell you how many times I've had friends and clients show me a gym weight workout that a trainer has designed for them which expected them to do three sets of every exercise. First of all, unless they give up all claims to a career, social or family life, few people have that much time to spare! As a result, they usually lose interest entirely, become discouraged, or work out very sporadically. Second of all, the average human ends up conserving strength during the first two sets so that they can manage to get through the third set. Unfortunately, this means that the first two sets were a complete waste of time! On the other hand, I've had clients show excellent results doing only one set of each weight lifting exercise, because they put ALL their energy into it and were exceptionally consistent. They were consistent because they could fit it into their schedule! If doing one set of everything allows you to work out consistently then that may be the best choice for you. However, body type is also a factor to consider when deciding how many sets are necessary (see below.)

Q.     Will I gain muscle tone/ become muscular?

A.     The Ideal: You'll look like Sly Stalone/Cindy Crawford in no time.

The Reality: Building muscle tone is easier for some body types than others.

There are three classic body types. A pure Mesomorph (think football player) gains muscle tone quickly, retains tone well and can bulk up fairly easily. A pure Ectomorph (think basketball player) is lean and wiry with stringy muscles. They tone fairly easily, and the tone holds well, but it's hard to bulk up. The third body type is an Endomorph. A pure Endomorph who exercises consistently can build tone and add bulk. However, it takes longer, requires more effort, and will have a softer appearance/definition than the other two body types. Endomorphs also tend to lose their tone faster than the other two body types. Nevertheless, Endomorphs are capable of becoming the strongest people in the entire gym. An example is Rulon Gardner, the Olympic Gold Medal winner for Greco-Roman Wrestling. He won his gold medal match against a Russian champion who had not lost a bout in 13 years. Despite the fact that the Russian was a Mesomorph with more muscle definition, Gardner held his ground and proved that he was actually the stronger of the two.

The caveat to the three classic body types is that not everyone falls into a clear category. Many of us are hybrids. Someone with a thin, wiry upper-body may find that consistently doing just one set of various arm exercises builds all the tone they want. But if their lower-body has softer, tone resistant, Endomorph tendencies they may need to consistently do two, or even three sets of leg exercises before they see results.

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Originally published in Progressive Health,
January 2001

An Exercise Reality Check Part 2
By Elizabeth Glaze

The annual holiday season tends to bring up traditional questions regarding fitness. As a Personal Fitness Trainer, these are the answers I share with my clients, friends and family.

Q.     I feel so depressed. What can I do about it?

A.     The Ideal: "Don't worry, be happy!"

The Reality: Realize that you need to nurture yourself, and make it a priority. A major part of this involves doing some form of exercise. Usually, the worse you feel, the more you need it. Duke University Medical Center recently published a research study on 156 depressed people. One group took an antidepressant drug, a second group exercised by walking 3 times a week for 30 minutes, and a third group exercised while also taking an antidepressant drug. After 16 weeks, all three groups felt similar improvement. In a follow-up study six months later, only the exercise group that had not taken antidepressants continued to show strong non-relapse results. The conclusion was that exercise is equal to, or better than antidepressant drugs.

It's up to each of us to find our personal way to nurture ourselves and fend off depression. My own approach resembles that of a prizefighter going into training. First I let myself wallow in misery and vent as much emotion as possible, then, I begin getting up at the crack of dawn to exercise and start going to bed early to get lots of sleep. Next, I stock the kitchen with super healthy items, begin doing things like drinking brewers yeast in orange juice at breakfast, and start hiking with local hiking groups on weekends. This is how I have successfully made it through romantic breakups, and a divorce. One of the most positive things I have ever done for myself was to jog in a 3-mile run/walk event along Kelly Drive on New Years Day. I gloried in the fact that I felt good about myself while most of the world still had a hangover.

Q.     How can I lose weight?

A.     The Ideal: Improve your diet, do Aerobic exercise, lift weights.

The Reality: Improve your diet, do Aerobic exercise, lift weights.

In the 70's we lost weight by altering our diet. In the 80's we did Aerobic exercise to burn fat. In the 90's we were told to build muscle tone because it burns more calories. In truth, it takes a combination of all three. An added benefit is that all three are helpful in improving and preventing Osteoporosis in women and in men. As far as diet improvement goes, the longer I teach, the more convinced I am that there is no single perfect diet that works for everyone. The one thing I do advise is that people deal with REAL food and be honest with themselves. Stay away from preservatives, eat organic, cut down on sugar and cut down on portions. However, if you are going to drink a Coca Cola---drink the real thing, sugar and all, calculate it into the plan and stop playing diet games with empty calorie and empty nutrient foods.

Q.     What is the best form of aerobic equipment?

A.     The Ideal: A well made electric treadmill with wide belt and incline adjustment. Walking is the one form of exercise that most people can sustain year after year. A good treadmill is the one piece of equipment you are most likely to return to regularly.

The Reality: Your feet and a good pair of walking shoes! Experiment with different routes and times of day. For greater efficiency, add a portable tape player that clips onto your clothes, a comfortable headset and professionally made walking tapes. These tapes come in varied speeds so you can pick up the pace as you improve, and the musical formats range from hip-hop to classical. Using tapes will keep you walking at an efficient pace but allow your mind to wander/daydream/plot and plan. Heck, you can even carry a notepad or mini-voice recorder and make notes while you walk. After awhile you'll discover you even want to walk in the rain and cold weather!

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Originally published in Progressive Health,
June 2003

Keeping Your Body in Balance
By Elizabeth Glaze

Although it is common to hear people speak of eating a "well- balanced meal," I rarely meet anyone who thinks about "well-balanced exercise." This is probably why I come across so many people with muscle-stress injuries.

Example #1:

"Muscles become stressed when just a few of them do all the work."

Let's say a person has rounded shoulders and slouches forward in the upper back. Chances are good that they also have frequent mid-to-upper back pain and neck ache.

The Reason:

Logic and a basic understanding of gravity should tell you that just a few muscles in the mid-to-upper back are supporting the entire weight of the head and shoulders.

Example #2:

"Strong muscles always dominate over weak muscles." 

Imagine the person in Example #1 joins a gym and begins lifting weights. In an effort to build up the chest and front of the shoulders, he or she begins doing exercises that mainly emphasize those muscle groups. Much to their chagrin, they soon begin having shoulder injuries.

The Reason:

The muscles in the shoulders were weak to begin with. Now the ones in the front are becoming stronger and dominant. If they aren't stretched, they also become tighter. All of this pulls the shoulder joints into increasingly inefficient alignment and places severe stress on the other weaker muscles around the rest of the shoulder joint.

Example #3

"An imbalance in one joint can cause a problem in other joints"

Example #3 is a person who is constantly trying to tone their front thighs, outer thighs, and buttocks. Their butt looks great, but after awhile, they suddenly notice that their knees are killing them and going up and down stairs becomes a problem.

The Reason:

The hip joint has 6 muscles that cross over both it and the knee joint. The knee joint has 2 additional muscles that cross over both it and the ankle joint. All of these are referred to as "Two Joint Reflex Muscles." In practice, this means that a muscular imbalance in one joint always affects the other two. Neglecting to exercise your inner thighs as much as the rest creates an imbalance in the strength of the muscles around the hip joint. This imbalance will transfer to the knee joint and start to pull the kneecap out of alignment.

Example #4

"When one group of muscles is too loose, its opposing group is frequently too tight"

Picture the pelvis as a seesaw. Imagine one end at your belly button and the other end at your spine. At first it starts out level and evenly balanced. Then, the belly gets bigger and flabbier and that end of the seesaw begins to tip lower and lower towards the ground. Meanwhile, the other end, at the spine, lifts higher and higher. Eventually, it's stuck in that position and backache becomes a frequent problem.

The Reason:

Your belly muscles have become so weak and elongated that they no longer support the front of the pelvis in an efficient position. Contrarily, the lower back muscles have been trapped in a tilted, shortened position for so long that they are overly tight and also cannot support the pelvis properly. Meanwhile, let's not forget that the weight of the upper body and head are involved in all this. And guess where their gravitational weight ends up falling? Why, on the lower back of course.

So, what does all this mean for you?

It means that you need to be logical about exercise. Remember, every muscle has a counterpart that also needs exercise. If you strengthen the muscles in front, you also need to strengthen the muscles in back. If one muscle is too tight and it's counterpart is too loose then you don't need to be an engineer to realize that one needs to be stretched and the other needs to be tightened. If you work with a Fitness Trainer who doesn't seem to take this into consideration, find a new Fitness Trainer. If you happen to be one of the millions who end up in the offices of a Physical Therapist this year it will probably be because of a muscular imbalance. It's why most of their patients are there. Use it as a learning experience. Pay attention to what they tell you, ask questions, practice what they preach and you'll emerge as a better balanced person.

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Originally published in Progressive Health,
September 2002

Aerobic Variations
By Elizabeth Glaze

If you've been doing the same form of aerobic exercise for a while, and are starting to feel as if it's less effective than initially, you have probably entered the Aerobic Rut Zone.

For example, I know a woman who initially sweated off 20 pounds when she first learned to play Racquetball. The problem is that she has become so good at it, she no longer runs herself ragged all over the court chasing the ball. Unfortunately, while her playing scores are improving, her fat layer is not. Her quandary is that her body is now efficient at conserving energy in her chosen sport.

The Aerobic Rut Zone was also an issue for me when I was a professional ballet dancer. My body was so efficient at ballet that it was a struggle to keep my weight at an ideal ballet dancer level, despite long hours of intense activity. Then one evening, at age 22, at the peak of my form as a ballet dancer, a girlfriend dragged me out to go running with her. I remember that after three short blocks I thought I was going to die. This was because running was a different form of aerobic exercise for me and my body wasn't used to it or efficient at it.

My experience perfectly illustrates the logic behind a fitness training technique called "Shocking the body." Fitness professionals use it all the time. It's based on the recognized fact that, just like learning to walk, talk, or write, your brain eventually figures out how to do your regular exercise routine with the least amount of wasted effort. Therefore, if you want to continue to improve your weight, fat layer, or muscle tone, rather than just maintain (or even regress a bit) you may need to periodically "Shock" your body by introducing it to a new form of exercise that is less familiar.

The first thing to remember is:

Your heart couldn't care less whether you are walking on your hands, or climbing Mount Everest. It just wants exercise, preferably over a sustained period of time, and at a level that is strenuous enough to keep it beating at an aerobic pace.

The second thing to remember is:

Your imagination may be your only limitation. I receive ads for workshops in every type of aerobic exercise you can conceive of. Believe me, if you think you might enjoy a class titled "Hip Hop Yoga Step Aerobics," it is probably out there somewhere!

Meanwhile, here are some other options for you to consider:

1.     If you are married to a specific program like walking, running or jogging, it's probably time to flirt with another form of aerobics. Common forms of Aerobic Exercise include: Step aerobics, Aerobic Dance, Trampoline Rebounding, "Spinning" (Stationary Biking in a group lesson), Hip Hop Dancing, Swing Dancing, Square Dancing, Folk Dancing, Cross-Country skiing (indoor or outdoor), In-line skating, Outdoor Biking/Stationary Biking, Hiking, Indoor or Outdoor Rowing, Climbing Machines, Eliptical Machines, Power Yoga, Upper Body Bicycles, the Schwinn Airdyne, Water Aerobics, Water Jogging, Water Walking, Swimming Laps, etc, etc.

2.     An Aerobic Circuit:
This involves quickly moving from one form of aerobic exercise to another. If you have access to various types of aerobic equipment in one location, you can spend 5 to 10 minutes on each piece of equipment. I used to rotate between the treadmill, bike, rower, climber, the Schwinn Airdyne, a Cross Country Ski machine, jogging a lap on a track, and an escalator style-climbing machine. This type of workout has several benefits: you don't get bored, you use a large variety of muscles, you are less susceptible to injury from overuse, it's a simple way to build up your stamina on different machines, and you'd be amazed at how quickly 45 minutes passes by. The key is to not waste a second moving from one machine to the next.

Do you need to give up the aerobic exercise or sport that you've been doing and have come to enjoy? No, but you should probably alternate it with other types of aerobic exercise. And don't forget to count those overlooked forms of aerobic exercise called "Mowing the Lawn", "Raking the Leaves" and "Shoveling the Snow." Besides, if you REALLY want to burn calories, you'll get a much stronger effect if you exercise out of doors in cold weather instead of indoors.

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Originally published in Progressive Health,
September 2001

Stretch two times and call me in the morning
By Elizabeth Glaze

After pondering the two main themes for this issue, "The Practice of Medicine" and "Headaches", I decided to write about "Stretching" because it relates to both issues.

Q.     What do headaches have to do with stretching?

A.     Tension headaches are often caused by tight, tense muscles in the neck and shoulders. One reason may be that the more tense and knotted they become, the more the muscles tend to constrict blood flow to the head and brain.

Q.     How can I try and prevent tension headaches?

A.     First Line of Defense:     1. Analyze your daily habits to see if something is exacerbating the problem (a car seat, a heavy briefcase, an office chair, etc.) 2. Next, do stretches for the areas that tend to get tense and tight (if necessary get professional advice from me or another Fitness Specialist or a Physical Therapist).

Second Line of Defense:     1. Analyze your daily habits, 2. Do strengthening exercises for the problem area so that it doesn't tire and tense up as easily (if necessary get professional advice), 3. Do stretches.

Third Line of Defense:     1. Analyze your daily habits, 2. Do strengthening exercises, 3. Do stretches, 4. Find out if some aspect of your posture is creating the problem to begin with and then get advice on how to improve it. For posture advice you can contact me to ask about the Ideokinesis method that I teach to clients, otherwise, look for an Alexander Technique teacher, Feldenkreis teacher, or ask a Physical Therapist (or even your network of friends) if they can recommend someone who specializes in posture improvement.

Q.     What does stretching have to do with "The Practice of Medicine."

A.     In the world of modern commercial Medicine, exercise and stretching are the basis of "Physical Therapy." Therefore, stretching is not only valid but is a legitimate medical treatment that is frequently prescribed by doctors!

Q.     How should I do my stretching?

A.     A stretch only truly becomes a stretch if you hold it for 15 to 20 seconds or longer, and you don't "Bounce" or "Pulse." This is because an automatic response called "Stretch Reflex" tells our muscles to resist the stretch for the first 10 to 15 seconds. Stretch Reflex is very useful in times of sudden violent stretching, such as whiplash, but frustrates the heck out of impatient exercisers. Most importantly, because it resists a stretch equal to the amount of force put into the stretch, you can pull or tear a muscle if you rush things.

Also remember, your stretch will be more successful if you try and relax into it and don't take it to a point that is excruciating. Instead, stretch to a point that is just slightly past being comfortable.

Q.     Do different forms of exercise utilize different methods of stretching?

A.     Physical Therapists usually require a patient to hold a stretch for 10 to 20 seconds and then repeat the stretch one or more times. The stretches are always done after a warm-up.

The Fitness World has varying degrees of knowledge of Stretch Reflex and, admittedly, some teachers don't understand how to stretch properly. Fortunately, nowadays the generally accepted format is "Warm up first, stretch after." In other words, DON'T STRETCH COLD MUSCLES! Just do loosening up exercises to start with, then do your workout, and either stretch afterwards or as you go along after you've completed individual exercises.

In Yoga, the stretches use gravity to help increase the stretch and so yoga positions are usually held for a long time. Students are often instructed to focus on their breathing, which helps them to relax because it distracts and calms them. I sometimes incorporate yoga stretches into my fitness sessions with clients. One of my clients attributed the decline of her daily tension headaches to the fact that I began doing the Yoga Plough stretch with her on a regular basis.

But the most important thing to remember is that muscles are most content when they are not kept at the same length for hours on end. They like to be shortened (contracted) and they like to be lengthened (stretched). A happy muscle is a strong and flexible muscle!

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Originally published in Progressive Health,
June 2001

Exercise and Children
By Elizabeth Glaze

Although I don't specifically teach exercise to children, I have taught Children's Creative Movement and I have a six-year-old daughter. These are the things I have learned from my experience as a child, as a parent, and as a teacher:

Q.     What are the best sports for children to learn?

A.     Swimming, Tennis and Golf, because they are lifelong sports. They are also the least injurious to the body, can enhance your child's adult life socially and professionally, and can be done pretty much anywhere. I thought this was just my own opinion until I read that it's also what many pediatricians recommend. This does not mean that your child won't benefit from Soccer, Softball, Hockey, Basketball, etc., but how many adults do you know who continue to play team sports all their lives? Usually, rather than play it, they start watching it on TV. Hiking, Biking, Skating and Skiing are great exercise but become harder to do, as we get older.

Q.     Are Ballet, Tumbling, Gymnastics and Yoga good exercise for children?

A.     Ballet, is good exercise, however, The Royal Ballet School, Bolshoi School, School of American Ballet, and other respected schools only teach real ballet to children after age 7-8. In the ballet world, it is an accepted fact that the joints and spines of young children are too undeveloped to safely handle the demands and extremes of the positions that ballet requires. This is why most dance schools only offer Creative Dance to young children. (Also, toe shoes should never be worn before the age of 12, and only after 3 years of ballet training.) Meanwhile, Tap, Jazz, Hip Hop, Kid's Aerobics, and Modern Dance are safe to do at any age!

Tumbling, is good exercise. It typically teaches kids early basics of gymnastics and involves cartwheels, somersaults, handstands, backward bridges and other movements that improve flexibility, coordination and upper body strength.

Gymnastics, above the Tumbling level, makes me apprehensive. Read my paragraph about why ballet schools don't teach ballet before age 7-8 and you'll understand why. My apprehension is also based on a past conversation with Charles Kelly, a well-known gymnastics teacher for adults in Manhattan. He felt that his severely swayed back, (his bottom stuck out like a duck's), was caused by starting gymnastics as a very young child. In his opinion, serious gymnastics and very young children are not a good mix.

Yoga, is good exercise for kids. It can give them balance, strength and flexibility. However, I would avoid a teacher who expects young children to do any of the more extreme yoga positions. I should also mention that I have a girlfriend who recently had to have a neck vertebrae reinforced after 30 years of doing yoga headstands. She started doing them at age 20 and still ended up with problems down the road, whereas a child's spine is not fully developed yet. I would suggest caution with headstands, at least on any regular basis.

Q.     Should children do Weight Lifting?

A.     The muscles, joints and spines of children are too vulnerable to handle lifting heavy weights. I've met one former child competitive swimmer who blames her shoulder operations on heavy-duty weight lifting at a young age. However, kids can build strength and muscle tone by doing traditional Calisthenics exercises just like the ones we did in gym at school. Alternatives also exist! Last summer, my daughter spent hours swinging from one hand to the other on the playground monkey bars. She also used her arms to lift herself out of our local swimming pool every day. (Discourage your child from using the pool ladder or stairs). Lacking a pool, kids can exercise the same muscles by using their arms to lift themselves up to sit on a wall or fence over and over again. For an abdominal workout you can have your child do sit-ups, or take them to the playground, have them hang by their hands from the monkey bars and ask them to lift their knees up to their chest over and over again. The best kid's leg workout is a bicycle ride, but stairs are also good. I once lived in a 4-floor townhouse and my sister's thighs were killing her after 3 days of visiting!

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Originally published in Progressive Health,
January 2003

Fluids for Fitness
By Elizabeth Glaze

In the 70's, I had many Opera Singers as friends. I learned that, if they had a performance the next day, they would not touch alcohol, soda, fruit juice or any beverage containing sugar. They all knew that sugar is dehydrating and causes the throat to dry up.

In the 80's, I had two airline flight attendants as fitness clients. I learned that, while in the air, flight attendants avoid alcohol, soda, fruit juice and any beverage containing sugar, because they know that sugar is dehydrating. If they don't avoid it, their skin dries up like a prune because airplane air is also very dehydrating. Both of these groups also avoided coffee, a diuretic that drains your body of various nutrients and quickly makes you need to empty your bladder, which is dehydrating. Instead, they drank water and herbal teas.

If You Sweat a Lot:

If you are an athlete, or exercise to the point where you sweat a great deal, it is important to drink fluids for re-hydration. You have probably figured out by now that alcohol, fruit drinks, sodas and coffee are counterproductive. Diet drinks don't do it either; Pete Sampras once became extremely ill and dangerously dehydrated at a major tennis tournament simply by drinking Diet Coke. Gatorade seems to be the drink of choice but has an excess of sugar, refined salt and artificial elements added to the trace minerals and electrolyte content. There are better options, in powdered form, available at places like REI and EMS, which are designed for the outdoor sport athletes who shop at their stores. Diluted, homemade chicken broth is excellent, (and more viable for diabetics); as long as it's made with vinegar to break down minerals in the chicken bones, and sea salt that contains trace minerals (I use Celtic Sea salt). I have also come across a "Gatorade" substitute recipe:

1 Qt. Filtered Water

2 TBS Raw honey or "Rapidura" unrefined cane sugar (contains minerals)

1 TBS Sea salt (preferably Celtic Sea salt because it contains minerals)

1 TBS baking soda (double the salt if no baking soda is available)

1/2 cup fresh!! orange juice, coconut water or mashed ripe banana if available

Last year I learned one new, but important, element of re-hydration. Namely, liquids that are body temperature re-hydrate the body faster than cold liquids. This is because the stomach will not allow things to enter until they are body temperature. Therefore, cold liquids sit and wait to heat up before they can go all the way down and complete their job. I had often wondered why, when I was hot and sweaty, I'd drink something ice cold and then feel as though I had a mild but faint cramp somewhere on the way to the stomach. I now leave a glass container of filtered water out on the kitchen counter and drink the water from it all day long. I probably drink four times more water than I used to by doing this, because I hardly notice I am drinking it.

If You Don't Sweat a Lot:

For those of you who think Gatorade is just a really healthy drink-you are wrong. It, and other drinks like it, is specifically meant for exercisers and athletes who sweat a great deal and are in danger of suffering from dehydration. If you are not in that category, it will simply make you fat. The major problem is that it is designed to make you eternally thirsty so that you will crave more of it. Because you'll never feel satisfied, you'll load up on the salt and sugars in it. If your child sits indoors at school all winter, why are they drinking Gatorade? If you sit at a computer all day long, why are you drinking Gatorade? However, if you play soccer for two straight hours every Saturday, by all means, drink Gatorade between rounds.

The US is experiencing an increase in malnutrition in the middle class, particularly among middle class children. One primary reason is the fact that they fill up on sugar-loaded beverages. Fruit juices usually have High Fructose Corn Syrup added to them by the manufacturer. Sodas contain High Fructose Corn Syrup, and Diet Sodas are simply chemical cocktails. The problem is the empty calories in these drinks remove our appetite. When it is time to eat genuine food, we cut our nutrition short because we aren't very hungry. This is particularly true for children.

However, there is a simple remedy to all this. If you aren't a heavy-duty exerciser and you want a healthy drink, there is a really good one that is recommended by doctors worldwide. It has been around a very long time. It's called water!

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Originally published in Progressive Health,
June 2002

Healthy Eating Habits and Children
By Elizabeth Glaze

Recently, I've begun to wonder if my first grader's teachers understand the less obvious lessons they are teaching. In February, she performed at assembly and the gym teacher rewarded her with candy. When her class behaves very well, her library, music and art teachers reward them with candy. When her class does particularly well in homeroom, their teacher gives them candy. In Spanish class last year, the teacher gave students candy when they answered questions correctly. Frankly, I think the real lesson they are learning is GOOD BEHAVIOR = CANDY. Fortunately, my daughter appears to be pretty well grounded. She usually brings her candy home for our candy box.

At our house, Wednesday and Sunday are candy/ice cream/dessert days.

I came up with this formula when my daughter discovered ice cream and her enthusiasm, shared by her father, threatened to make ice cream a daily event. The two-day a week plan seems to work for us. We make exceptions for holidays, birthdays and dinner parties but get back on schedule afterwards. By limiting sweets to two days a week, we keep them under control without making anybody feel that they are forbidden.

We also have a "One Bite Rule" because I vividly remember being five and refusing to eat Cauliflower because I didn't like the way it looked. Nobody ever said I had to try it, and so I carried a prejudice against that poor vegetable for years.

In my version of the "One Bite Rule" the child must try one bite of every food item served at a meal. If they don't like a particular food item, they don't have to eat more than one bite, but they still have to try it again the next time it is served...and it will eventually be served again! What I've learned from my daughter is that she may not like a particular food item the first 5 times she tries it, but on the 6th try she'll often decide she likes it. Sometimes, she'll even decide she LOVES it! Before trying to apply this rule, the parent must think of some privilege the child will forgo if they don't cooperate, and be prepared to stick with it. My daughter used to ask, "Do I really have to eat one bite of this?" My gentle reply was usually, "No, you don't have to, but you won't be able to watch TV for 2 days if you don't." Two years ago, she decided to test us on this issue. She was so obstinate that she lost TV rights for a week. We stuck to our guns 100%. She has never done it again.

Teach your child to eat a balanced diet. My daughter knows that she may not take a second helping of her favorite meal item unless she has eaten a decent amount of the other foods on her plate first. Originally, left to her own devices, she would fill up on spaghetti or chicken and then announce that she was too full to eat anything else. Now she automatically spends equal time eating her salad and vegetables.

Rotate foods everyday at ALL meals. If you serve cereal with milk every morning, or peanut butter and jelly for lunch every day, you are defeating health in two ways. 1. You are serving a very repetitive supply of limited nutrients. 2. You or your child may gradually develop major food sensitivities because of repeated daily exposure. True health requires a variety of foods.

Stop cooking separate dinners that cater to your child's limited tastes, and ignore Kid's Menus at restaurants. A better plan for restaurants is to order a meal that you can share with your child and give them a side salad of their own.

My daughter isn't perfect, but she has been known to stop Whole Foods Market grocery shoppers dead in their tracks by yelling, "BROCCOLI, YAY, can we buy BROCCOLI Mom?" while sprinting towards the vegetable section, followed by, "I LOVE LETTUCE, can we get LETTUCE Mom?" This is a side of her that has been carefully nurtured and developed. But we are also living in the real world and so it's not astounding that her very next question was, "Can we get a CUPCAKE at Giant?" My point being, a child with healthy eating habits should be able to keep both desires evenly balanced.

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Originally published in Progressive Health,
September 2002

Fat in Food Can Keep You Fit
By Elizabeth Glaze

Is there anybody out there who still doesn't know that on July 7th, 2002, New York Times Magazine featured an 8-page article questioning whether fat in food really makes our bodies fat? This was actually a continuation of a March 2001 article in Science Magazine, by the same author, which explained how politically and PR savvy lawyers, rather than nutritionists, designed our current Food Pyramid! Health scientists now worry that the Pyramid's emphasis on carbohydrates and grains is the cause of our major increase in obesity and diabetes.

All I can say is, WELL IT'S ABOUT TIME!!!

I grew up in the 60's when Adele Davis was the queen of nutrition and my father and I ate liver for breakfast. At ballet school, we all knew the way to lose weight was to eat steak and salad. In the 70's I missed the low-fat craze completely because I was living in Europe.

I started in England, where everyone ate cheese, butter, cream, eggs, oatmeal, lamb, bacon, beef, lard, and assorted vegetables, and stayed quite slim.

Then I lived in Austria, where they ate cheese, cream, yogurt, butter, veal, pork, lard, chicken, sausages with horseradish, eggs, broth soup at every dinner, pickled vegetables, sourdough bread, and thrived on eating "speck" (sliced chunks of bacon fat without any actual bacon meat in it). They were sturdy and slim despite having one of the highest fat diets in the world. Meanwhile, the Austrian average lifespan is almost as long as the Japanese.

Next, I moved to Germany, where the diet was mostly pork, veal, sausages, lard, chicken, eggs, cheese, butter, pickled vegetables, cabbage and potatoes. Hefty bodies and "beer bellies" existed there but I never saw any truly obese people.

Finally I lived in Switzerland, where the population ate government certified raw milk, cheese by the truckload, butter, cream, whole grain breads, veal, pork, lard, chicken, seasonal wild meats, seasonal chestnuts, eggs, meusli premixed into yogurt, and salad with oil & vinegar dressing. The Swiss were also sturdy and slender. I knew one 60-year-old with a large "Beer belly," but he slimmed down by cutting out, "All bread, crackers, rice, pasta, cakes, desserts, candies and cookies." What impressed me was that he lost weight AND KEPT IT OFF!!!

On visiting several Greek Islands, I realized that Greeks live on seafood, lamb, goat cheese, yogurt, almonds, olives, honey, fruits, salads, and sea salt from the Mediterranean. In Italy, I discovered that pasta is only eaten in small portions as an appetizer and a meat dish is always the main course. Recently, in the Caribbean, on St. Lucia, I found that islanders eat chicken, seafood, coconut, coconut oil, tons of tropical fruit, goat meat, some beef, some grains, but no dairy beyond childhood.

Over the years, I've learned that most counties eat much smaller portions of food than we currently do, with more fat, but less sugar, that corn is usually only used as animal feed, and that breakfast cereals are a recent phenomena introduced by the US. I have also observed that whole-fat food is much more filling than non-fat food, and low/non-fat food usually contains twice as much sugar. Not surprisingly, as American Fast foods and low fat concepts have invaded Europe, the European waistline has begun to expand. We then sell them our diet books and the vicious cycle is complete!

Keep in mind, a Caribbean will not do well eating an Austrian diet, and vice-versa. Therefore, if you want to lose weight, try and eat like your ancestors. If you have a highly mixed ancestry you will need to experiment and closely observe your bodies reaction after eating various food items. Reading The Metabolic Typing Diet can help speed up the process. One thing is certain, if you crave simple carbohydrates, you are addicted to them and are probably eating less protein than you need. Other recommended books are Weston Price's Nutrition and Physical Degeneration and The Diet Cure by Julia Ross.

You may still be skeptical, but when I recently attended lectures by Paul Chek, a trainer and consultant to elite athletes, elite golfers, and various sports teams around the world, I discovered that he was giving the same dietary advice that I am. So, you can either follow my advice, or you can pay him $550 per hour and get exactly the same information!

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